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Johnny's Grill in Logan Square Closes: 'I Didn't Want to Leave,' Owner Says

By Josh McGhee | May 2, 2014 11:50am | Updated on May 5, 2014 8:45am
 The diner has been a go-to place for delicious greasy food for more than 30 years.
The diner has been a go-to place for delicious greasy food for more than 30 years.
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DNAinfo/ Josh McGhee

LOGAN SQUARE — A longtime Logan Square diner known for its quick service and cheap breakfast closed this week, and its owner claims he was forced out.

Johnny's Grill, 2545 N. Kedzie Blvd., has been a mainstay in Logan Square for more than 30 years, but the grill closed Wednesday, according its owner Nicholas Kalliantasis.

Kalliantasis said the building's owner would not renew his lease for the location, but he wasn't sure why.

"I didn't want to leave. I was forced to leave. That's the bottom line," Kalliantasis said.

Kalliantasis said the owner, Saul Osacky, gave him six to eight weeks notice that his lease would not be renewed. Osacky did not offer to keep leasing the location at a higher price, Kalliantasis said.

"Honestly, there's a lot of mixed feelings," he continued. "I feel like I was violated, but what am I going to do, you know? I have no choice."

Friday morning, Osacky told DNAinfo the restaurant closed because Kalliantasis had retired. Osacky could not immediately be reached to respond to Kalliantasis' comments.

Kalliantasis said he and the building's owner have had a good relationship for more than a decade. He said three or four people had approached him in the past couple years to buy Johnny's Grill, and the building owner had "no problem with that." However, a deal was never reached.

The diner's owner said he plans to look for other locations and would like to open something in the neighborhood if he can. So far, he said, he hasn't found anything.

Logan Square residents said they were surprised that the popular spot had closed.

"I'm shocked. It was always packed," was a sentiment echoed by many residents who paused to stare at the "for rent" signs hanging in both windows. They also pulled the locked doors for further confirmation.

"I loved Johnny's. I'm sad," said Duncan Biddulph, 33, looking into the old diner's window as a worker covered them with paper. "I heard about it two days ago. It's just heartbreaking. My grandfather used to go to Johnny's."

Biddulph first visited Johnny's in 2003 when he began working at Lula Cafe on the same block. In those 11 years, he saw the diner change hands from father-to-son, but the crowds never ceased.

"If I could I'd get that lease, I wouldn't change a thing," he said, except that he would be the one behind the grill.

Earlier Friday, Osacky said "many, many, many" parties have already inquired about renting the space and keeping the diner feel that made Johnny's so popular.

"It won't be empty for long. Everybody wants it. It's just a matter of negotiating the lease," he said.

Will Guzzardi, democratic nominee for the 39th District Illinois House seat, visited the diner from time to time and said it was a hub for community interaction — and just a kind, affordable place.

"They were very kind to all their patrons, even those who had been panhandling and collected a little change. Johnny's would always give them a cup of coffee or a meal. They were always really nice to them," Guzzardi said. "It was a place where low income or no income people had a place to eat. It's troubling to have a place like that leave or close."

Guzzardi said he hopes whoever takes over the space will bring a little bit of what Johnny's brought to the neighborhood.

"Something friendly and affordable. I think that would be a great way to keep up that legacy."

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